Preventative Care Although well-made shoes with stitched soles and structured uppers can be repaired over and over again, you can prevent urgent trips to the cobbler by adding a little protection when the shoes are still new. Waterproofing sprays or conditioning creams will help protect them from snow, ice, salt, or rain—all of which can easily ruin the material. Test an inconspicuous spot before applying and, as always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Before you place shoes into their proper storage containers, make sure they are clean. Stock a shoe kit with everything you'll need for regular maintenance. There are a few must-have supplies: a suede soap or leather cleaner for cleaning shoes; shoe creams and polish in the most common colors of your leather shoes plus a neutral for hard-to-match colors; a suede brush and suede shampoo or cleaning liquid; a small application brush for every different color of polish or cream; two horsehair buffing brushes (one for dark colors, one for light); and several soft flannel or cotton cloths for the final buffing.
How to Rejuvenate Leather
The first step is to work shoe cream into the surface. Make sure the shoes are completely clean and dry before applying cream. Use cream the color of the shoe, and apply it with a soft cloth or an applicator brush. After applying the cream with a brush, allow it to soak into the surface overnight. This will condition the leather. Next, lightly apply a wax polish with a cotton cloth or an application brush, using a circular motion. Allow the wax to air-dry (never place leather shoes in front of a radiator or other heat source to dry). The wax will protect the shoes. Use a horsehair brush to buff shoes to a shine. For a high shine, or "spit shine," mist a clean cloth lightly with water and buff the shoe: Hold the cloth from both ends and pull it rapidly back and forth over the shoe.
How to Care for Patent Leather
Patent leather's high-gloss finish is particularly susceptible to cracking, so take special care not to get it wet. Clean with a soft cloth and a solution of one drop of gentle soap and water. If cracks appear, stretch the shoe on a wooden shoe tree or cushion-type shoe shaper, and treat the cracks with leather conditioner. For scuff marks dip a clean cloth in olive or mineral oil and wipe. Petroleum jelly works as well. Always dry patent leather away from heat sources, and take care not to scratch it.
How to Care for Suede
Suede cannot be polished, of course, but the color can fade and become dusty-looking in spots, and the nap can become shiny from wear. Because suede is a porous material, suede shoes are best worn on dry days. To clean it, sponge very lightly and gently with a shampoo formulated especially for suede. Then, brush gently with a rubber, nylon, or brass-wire brush made to raise the nap of the shoe. This will also remove dirt and mud. Use a suede conditioner, available at our store, to rejuvenate color.
Removing Salt and Rubbery Boot "Bloom"
Rubber boots are made to stand up to the elements, but they still require a bit of upkeep to stay beautiful. Rinsing off mud and winter salts after every wear will prevent the need for a thorough cleaning. You can use a bristle brush to get rid of dried grime. Follow it up with a warm, damp cloth, adding a few drops of dish soap to the water if the exterior is still looking a little worse for wear. Do a spot test on boots with patterns as some can rub off quite easily. Rinse the soap off, dry the boots with a clean towel, and leave them to air dry. If the boots start to bloom (or develop a white film) over time, rub a teaspoon of olive oil on them to remove it.